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OpEd: Race, Gender and Kneejerk Obstructionism

If President Obama really wants to play a game of high stakes poker on his way out the door he will nominate an African-American female to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Do you want to reveal the true colors of a Republican party that plotted obstruction against the nation's first Black President from the night of his inaugural on? Then go ahead, Mr. President, nominate one of the more than qualified Black female judges in the U.S., sit back, and let the games begin.

Tee up that moment and allow the Republican party show their feelings about a qualified nominee —during the primary season and right before an open presidential election.

Nothing against Judge Sri Srinivasan, who was nominated to the DC Circuit by a unanimous vote in the Senate of 97-0 in 2013, but this is an election year in a politically polarized time. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already declared he intends to delay consideration of anyone President Obama may nominate until 2017.

In a statement released after the news of Antonin Scalia's death and well before the body was cold, the Republican Majority Leader stated, "The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President."

It doesn't matter that Sen. McConnell and current Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) voted for Supreme Court nominee Anthony Kennedy in February 1988, in the final year of Reagan's presidency. Nope, this is the presidency of Barack Obama — where all things are magically different and precedence suddenly doesn't matter.

Given the fact that Republicans have already publicly declared their intention to block yet another of the President's judicial nominees, the President's counter to Republican obstruction should be to nominate someone who is likely to generate the attention of a vital part of the Democratic Party's voting base.

If the Republicans don't care how qualified a potential nominee to fill Scalia's seat may or not be, let there be a full-on demonstration that reveals the true nature of irrational knee-jerk obstruction.

Image: U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch makes remarks at a news conference in Washington, Dec. 3. MIKE THEILER / Reuters file

There are three African-American females who are more than qualified to be nominated.

Current U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is 56 years old. She was just confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 56-43. Even Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voted for Lynch. If the President nominated Lynch it would force Republicans to explain how it is that she was qualified to be U.S. Attorney General but yet is somehow not qualified to be on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Leah Ward Sears, 60, is the former Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court (2005-2009). Many argued that Sears should have been nominated for the Supreme Court in 2010 when instead President Obama picked former Solicitor General Elena Kagan.

Current Attorney General of California Kamala Harris, 51, is a candidate for the U.S. Senate and also a qualified nominee.

Stay tuned for Senate Republicans to block a vote in committee and on the floor of the Senate no matter who the nominee is. But if they want to host the spectacle of blocking a qualified African-American, the President should provide them with every opportunity to do so.

The GOP already looks as if they are on the brink of nominating an anti-immigration candidate, Donald Trump, at a time when everyone knows the Hispanic voting block is essential to win a national election. If Trump wins the nomination, while a fight over the first Black female Supreme Court nominee is going on in the background, this will be yet another self-defining moment for the party.

Black female voters already showed their strength in 2008 and 2012, when they voted at the highest percentage of any other group. What better way for the President to get the Democratic base even more galvanized than to nominate the first African-American female to the U.S. Supreme Court?